Part 2 The Other Bounty Hunter
The ship was cramped and stale smelling from the sacks of bounty that filled every hold and seat. What Oldman didn’t get, Shar hauled to another Junker. One that paid more for certain items, like blown electronics and insulation. Shar buckled into the pilot’s chair, flipped the auto-mode switch and sat back for the long ride. The destination was a planet in the Gallo quadrant. A dry world with underground cities and caverns carved out of desert rock. An ancient place of strange rules and customs she’d rather not partake, such as spitting in your hand and wiping it on your own face, things like that. And slavery was still acceptable, if done on the sly. She couldn’t pronounce the name of the planet. It started with a Z sound and ended with a few clucking noises. Desert squawk. A language only the Hulli people could speak.
Shar was starving. It had been hours since her last meal, a small cut of a plant called hebo, a green succulent that held every mineral and most vitamins a human needs. Although mostly carbs, it also had a few grams of protein. You could live on it for weeks. She reached for a stash from the sack on the co-pilot’s chair, and rummaged around for a large chunk of the meaty plant. The sting was quick, sharp and hit with a wallop. She pulled her hand away and immediately spotted the barb. It was deep in the meaty flesh of her right palm. A calling card from the stinging fistuka. A nasty insect that scavenged hebo. It embedded one of three barbs it had on its large tail. Luckily it was the middle sized barb. She heard the smallest one would kill you in minutes. She was angry at himself for making such a rookie mistake, having checked the bag before loading it into the ship, but apparently not thoroughly enough. They were known to hide under the husk of the hebo plant, but they’d always leave a tell-tall hole.
She held her hand up to inspect the wound. A bright red ring encircled the barb still stuck in her flesh. Pulling it out would release more toxins and could mean instant death. She needed to wrap it in ice and head to the nearest outpost. Her body was reacting quickly to the poison. Her face felt flushed and she was dizzy. They say some of the tribal people on the unpronounceable planet are immune. But the swelling had already started, and she’d be delirious before reaching her current destination. It would have to be a pit stop. At least a five hour delay.
Sahr wrapped a cold pack around her aching hand and punched in a coordinate that pointed her toward the nearest outpost. It’d be less than an hour before reaching fueling station seventeen-twenty. They’d have emergency medicine there. She hoped. Something on her right leg moved, she flinched and flicked it off with the back of her ailing hand. It was a fituka all right. A big one. Black, with red rings on its abdomen, large claws and two more stingers on its ass end. She didn’t want to kill it, just in case they needed it for further examination or to divine some serum from its rancid bowels. She searched the cabin and spotted a large hat she’d worn on a visit to the desert on Frakus. It was floppy and heavy. A loud hiss rang out as she gently placed it over the gnarly insect.
She sat back in the pilot’s seat and began to doze. The proximity alarm startled her awake. It took a few seconds for Shar to realize there was a marauder on her port side, and closing fast.
“Suzie, shields at max.”
The ship’s AI voice rang out. “Shields at maximum.”
“Quadruple flux evasion pattern.”
“Q.F.E.P. in effect.”
Her head pounded. Fatigue sapped her strength. Her hand was swollen to almost twice its normal size. A dark ring was forming around the wound. She stared at the visual heads-up display. Black space lay ahead, distant stars barley readable in the flux of hyper-speed. She fumbled for the controls, trying to get a visual on the intruder.
“Suzie, who’s out there?” Her voice was low and hoarse. “Get a fix on their hull.”
The display illuminated an oblong oval object with three small fins on the either side, like and old fashioned jet. It glowed orange as it ripped though space. And it was gaining fast.
“Hull is comprised of titanium alloy, composite V plastic and Gallium minerals.”
“Gallium, huh? Those damn pirate trog herders.”
After spending six months on Gallium, serving mining interests, chasing down company loan jumpers, she’d had enough of their ruthless ways. Unlike the unpronounceable planet that started with Z, Gallium was completely uncivilized and chaotic. Bands of pirates roamed the sky above the planet, waiting to cash in on anything that moved near their space. They were either professional miners or pirates, mostly. The poor mine workers lived in shabby huts along the base of the rugged mountains, and subsisted on company store wages. All things led back to the mine owners. They owned the planet. Sure they had a system of government, but that had devolved into a bribe-taking theocracy, based on the worship of minerals and wealth. The powerful gave nothing to the people. And the people did nothing to stop them. The rich held the poor workers by the throat and never let go. She’d been naïve when taking the job there, not realizing how bad things actually were. But it only took Shar a week to figure it all out and the whole remainder of her six month contract as a bounty hunter to get the hell out. She chased down criminals, not runaway mine workers. But it made her tougher, more wary, and a better fighter.
She was wanted by the authorities on Gallium for what they called, “Abomination,” a term Galliumites used for those who criticized their ways, or the elite, and for absconding with one of their semi-slaves. She was a dark haired beauty named, Kelsiana. A house worker for a rich slob by the name of Gran, a wealthy mine owner from the southern district mines. Brought to the house at only seven years old, Kelsiana was sold by her parents and had known nothing but servitude, until Shar taught her of other worlds, and opened her eyes to new possibilities on other planets where she might be given a fair shake. Maybe even take advantage of her natural intelligence and beauty.
So, now a scout ship from Gallium was on her tail.
The heads up display flashed red.
“Warning, proximity alert.”
The microfilm in Shar’s collar weighed heavy now. If found by a Gallium bounty hunter, she’d be killed and they’d get rich in the process, selling it to the highest bidder. For the film held a secret only a few people knew. A secret that could change worlds. And not many possessed the knowledge to read the ancient script in which it was written.
The AI voice rang out. “Warning, docking of unauthorized vehicle in process.”
A loud bang, and the ship momentarily turned off course before righting itself. Shar, woozy from the poison, turned and pointed her disrupter at the cockpit hatch, as the large metallic latch slowly turned.
To Be Continued…
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The office was dark, smelled of an animal cage needing cleaning. Oldman sat in his large EV-chair. His considerable bulk blotting out the large oval window in front of him. He watched as debris from the latest mesosphere battle streaked by the platform, cutting through what was left of Earth’s atmosphere, flaming out and into the oblivion below. Umber clouds obscured most of the surface, but Earth’s visible areas glowed orange and brown from the raging fires.
Chet Hunter stood in the doorway behind him and cleared his throat. The air inside was barely breathable, the oxygen set too low, the stink tangible. The android guard turned toward him, its eyes lit-up yellow as it scanned him for weapons. Yellow beams of beta particles lit him as he smiled and nodded, as if the contraption cared about such pleasantries.
“There goes what was left of Stellar Nine Space Station. The Chinese are cooked, too.”
“Stellar Nine. Shame. I saw her launched. She was a beauty.”
“Well, not anymore, eh? Earth is done, now. Platforms, like this one, is all that’s left for us…survivors.”
“There’s always Alpha Centauri. But you hate worm holes.”
“Yes. Too unpredictable. I don’t want to end up on a farm in Musca.”
“I’d pay to see that. You riding a six legged trog.”
“We’re through here. The Velations are too powerful, their technology too great. They’ve won the battle already. Earth is toast.” Oldman turned and sneered at Hunter. “The 21 day war, they’ll call it.” He eyed Hunter up and down, scanned him with his auto fan-laser. “What have you got for me?”
Hunter held out his hand, revealing a tiny heart shaped silver locket and chain. He let it dangle for a few seconds, then took a few slow steps forward and placed it on the desk.
Oldman the Junker hummed, took out his magnifier and gave it a scan. “Hah. Silver. Small. This is all you have after two weeks of spending my money, using my best EV Gig?”
“This and the pile of battle junk on the dock.”
Oldman pointed to an air screen scanning the weighed cargo. “Yes, more or less three tons, I see.” He poked at the locket with a metal pointer. “Anything inside? It scans hollow.”
“When you found it, I mean. Perhaps there was something…huh?”
“Arrrg. Worth maybe a few ounces of oatmeal.” He tossed it over his shoulder onto a pile junk electronics. “All this fighting, all this lovely debris for you to gather. Why are you wasting my time? I should have sent an android seeker for all the good you’ve done me.”
The android laughed, its yellow eyes flashing in rhythm to the metallic sounding guffaws.
Hunter gritted his teeth, felt his hand tighten on the grip of his obliterator, but held his place. “I searched her cell thoroughly. Besides, you said anything she had. I can’t be held accountable for taste.”
Oldman leaned toward Hunter, his face an intense grimace. “She had what I was looking for ten hours ago, you pirate.” He turned to his android. “Search him.”
“He already did that.”
The android lit him up again.
“Besides, if I had anything to hide you think I’d bring it in here?” He turned to the android. “You better have that setting on low or I’ll melt your joints.”
The beam shut down. The android turned to Oldman. “He’s-b c,clean, bloss.”
“Nice voice-box there, Sluggo. You do poetry readings?”
“Now manually search him.”
The android stepped closer to Hunter, a low grrrr emanating from its voice box.
“Woof woof, Sluggo.”
The android fingers were Teflon slick, but were clumsy as they fumbled around Hunter’s body. It made him smile, knowing this goofy android couldn’t detect a rocket in his pocket, let alone a small ribbon of ancient micro film in his collar.
Sluggo squared up and took a few steps back. “No-ting t-to reput, B-Boss.”
Hunter smirked. “I know a guy can fix that voice module”
Oldman waved his arm dismissively. “It’s a stock program. Listen, I want you to go back out into the thick of things. Bring me that girl. What she holds is very valuable. It could mean everything.”
Hunter turned to go. “The girl. Right.”
“And Hunter.” Hunter stopped and turned to Oldman. “If I find you’ve been cheating me, hiding something…the girl, perhaps…” Oldman glared at Hunter.
“Me? Cheat a master criminal like you? Come on….I’m an open book.”
(To be continued…)
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A Grown-Up First Contact Story
Infinity 7 is a story about a man casting one arm into the future while gripping a guilt-ridden past, and he’s doing it while battling unforeseen obstacles which threaten a lifetime of achievements and he has to do it in a space environment, which carries it’s own set of problems. Smooth, polished writing, a strong sense of pacing, tension builds well. Both the main character’s grief and the technology throughout felt authentic, as well as the rounded supporting characters. Smart characterization and plausible downward spiral in a scientific research environment. There were a couple spots I found circumstances eddied a bit too long for my comfort, and a loose end with the smarteye camera that I wanted tired up at the end. But the ending, although a bit abrupt, was strong and cleverly done. I’ll be thinking about this story and the concepts it introduced me to for quite some time. Fantastic voice talent performance. Worth listening to this one. I’d read this author again.
A grounded, riveting murder mystery with supernatural touches.
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A private investigator with psychic abilities probes a homicide conviction in this thriller sequel.
Manhattan sleuth Gus Chase’s psychic dreams have helped him close cases. But he believes this ability is fading, which disappoints potential client Sherry Hart. Regardless, she hires him for old-fashioned detective work. Her older brother, Billy Littlefield, is serving time for the murder of a female cashier in Connecticut. Gus quickly learns the circumstantial case against Billy has lingering questions. The initial suspect, for one, committed suicide shortly after the woman’s homicide while a video that aided in convicting Billy has an unexplained glitch. Before Gus makes much progress, he meets a stranger who solicits the private eye’s psychic skills. Evidently, Gus’ “Dream State” can infiltrate a covert group and discover its plot to take over governments via mind control. Surprisingly, this band has a connection to Billy, who endured some type of experiment back in his Army days. Gus and his partner Millar Milner’s murder case may soon swerve into conspiracy territory once it’s apparent the FBI is involved. It seems Gus’ only option in stopping a killer is to rely on his extrasensory dreams. Hinckley’s gripping tale moves at a steady beat. The whodunit hits the ground running, as Sherry hands Gus a file jam-packed with evidence she’s compiled. Likewise, Gus and Mill’s banter over drinks and meals includes discussions about the ongoing case and the pair’s interviews with locals. The book’s dream sequences enhance the mystery; they’re not so much otherworldly as they are filled with tangible puzzle pieces. For example, in one dream, Gus witnesses and experiences myriad things: seeing a strangely familiar man at a podium, hearing a gunshot, and suddenly finding himself in someone’s car with a murder victim. Though the increasingly complicated case strays a bit from the original homicide, the villains as well as their motivations are comprehensible and engrossing. A grounded, riveting murder mystery with supernatural touches.
I came upon the small man in a dream.
He squatted by a river teaming with fish. As he looked into the rippling waters, I asked him where he came from and he said, “It is a closed system. There was nothing before and something since. The idea was strong, intense and consuming. It took root in the soil of imaginings and grew by way of hopes and dreams, emotions, gradually taking form. This is the eye of man. It sees all in front of it, none behind and certainly not into tomorrow. It’s frightened by things it does not understand, is wary of new events, yet trudges on in hopes of finding sameness, a lack of pain, some joy, perhaps a feeling of enlightenment. Happiness even. It marvels at small acts of physical manipulation. It doesn’t know what’s best for it. And it dies, leaving behind that which it has created.”
“Do you mean to say I was born of an idea and am the eye of man?”
He looked at me with his white and tearing eyes, unable to make out my form and whispered, “Do you have a dime?”
I pushed him into the water and walked on.